Fare thee well: part 1

I suppose the title probably says it all. My stint as your resident Clubber has come to a close. The first column appeared on June 20, 2002; the last will appear next week. I’ve simply decided that it’s time to move on. For one thing, my own music has shifted rather quickly into a gear that requires much of more of my attention than it has in years past. And, for another, I just need a long break from writing about live local music.

Writing the column has provided me a surprising education and a view into Sacramento’s small but stylistically diverse music community. It’s also provided its share of disappointments. I still believe strongly that our music scene is fragmented and insular. Midtowners are likely to tell you that they don’t want to drive to see a show, and kids in the suburbs are too young to come to Midtown shows (or can’t get their parents to drive them that far). I can hardly blame either group, but that leaves a huge gap, both in terms of generations and in terms of the scene itself. The young people I speak to haven’t heard of any of the bands that play in Midtown, and I’m sure the opposite is equally true.

It’s a shame, as one of the greatest and most valuable lessons Clubber has taught me is to appreciate music that I wouldn’t normally listen to. I’ve learned more about stage presence by seeing young pop-punk bands at The Boardwalk than I have in any other venue. I’ve watched rock, jazz, folk, punk, metal, country and experimental musicians perform terrific sets in bars, coffee shops, living rooms, furniture stores, auditoriums, record stores and art galleries. And I’ve learned a thing or two from each and every one of them: from subtlety to dynamics to the power of straight-ahead, sweaty rock.

But these lessons are not to be learned in the same venue with the same bands. I would love to see some sense of unity develop across genres and venues, although such lofty goals seem impossible to reach.

Nonetheless, I’d like to offer you a challenge. This month, go be your own Clubber. Drive away from your regular neighborhood and visit some venue you’ve never been to before. Find a bill where not a single band is a familiar name and go see it. Bring a notebook. Write down what you liked or didn’t like about the band. Try to see beyond the genre. So, you don’t like punk/indie rock/screamo/jazz; that’s fine. But the musicians in this town have surprising moments of artistic clarity that go far beyond the limits of their genres. At the risk of sounding like a self-help guru, find specifically what you do or don’t like about a performance and try to articulate it.

The goal is to understand your aesthetic position with a level of depth that goes beyond the surface and hence to be in a position to critically assess why Band A shreds and Band B is lame. And the goal is to try to find something good about “the other”—those bands that are way off of your radar. Maybe you’ll be surprised. Maybe you’ll be mortified. You’ll get something out of it either way. I have, and hopefully I’ll continue to do so, but without the weekly deadline.